Doheny Eye Institute researchers have discovered that Latinos have higher rates of developing visual impairment, blindness, diabetic eye disease and cataracts than non-Hispanic whites.
Five scientific manuscripts and an editorial on a study led by Rohit Varma, director of the Ocular Epidemiology Center at the Doheny Eye Institute, were published in the May edition of the American Journal of Ophthalmology.
The research was conducted as part of the Los Angeles Latino Eye Study (LALES) supported by the National Eye Institute, part of the National Institutes of Health. The Los Angeles Latino Eye Study began in 2000 as the nation’s largest and most comprehensive study of vision in Latinos. Varma is principal investigator of the Latino Eye Study.
“This study showed that Latinos develop certain vision conditions at different rates than other ethnic groups,” Varma said. “The burden of vision loss and eye disease on the Latino community is increasing as the population ages, and many eye diseases are becoming more common.”
There were 45 million Hispanics in the United States as of 2007, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Latino Eye Study researchers examined more than 4,600 Latinos four years after they enrolled in the study to determine the development of new eye disease and the progression of existing conditions, including visual impairment, blindness, diabetic eye disease, age-related macular degeneration and cataracts.
“The publication of five articles in a single issue is a remarkable accomplishment for any clinician scientist,” said Ronald Smith, chair of the Department of Ophthalmology at the Keck School of Medicine of USC. “LALES has already led to health policy changes in the United States, including Congressional action to promote glaucoma screening in this country. We’re proud of the contributions of Dr. Varma and his team.”
Latino Eye Study researchers found that during the four-year study, Latinos developed visual impairment and blindness at a higher rate than any ethnic group in the country, when compared with estimates from other U.S. population-based studies.
U.S. Latinos also were more likely to develop diabetic retinopathy than non-Hispanic whites. Over the four-year period, 34 percent of Latinos who had diabetes developed diabetic retinopathy, with Latinos aged 40 to 59 having the highest rate.
Though increasing age did not play a role, Latinos with a longer duration of diabetes were more likely to develop the disease. In fact, 42 percent of Latinos with diabetes for more than 15 years developed diabetic retinopathy. Also, among participants who had diabetic retinopathy at the beginning of the study, 39 percent showed worsening of the disease four years later.
“These results underscore the importance of Latinos, especially those with diabetes, getting regular, dilated eye exams to monitor their eye health,” Varma said. “Eye care professionals should closely monitor Latinos who have eye disease in one eye because their quality of life can be dramatically impacted if they develop the condition in both eyes.”
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